11/6/2005- Mike Andrews, 10.0km from Moel Elio

Hi Tim

Moel Eilio SH 566 588 to Nantgwynant (to the West of the river) 628 509 10 km exactly on the GPS.

This was a spectacular flight of course. It was quite hard to get up at Moel Eilio, the thermals were very small and punchy in a stiff-ish northerly wind. I had a couple of dud attempts, side-landing each time before I sussed the conditions. Then I had a long wait for the right moment to launch. That paid off and I actually got much higher on Moel Eilio than Ken and the others did who followed me. It allowed me a straight glide to the top of Moel Cynghorion. There were only zero's there despite the face into the wind, so I lost no time in gliding on to Clogwyn cliffs - I was encouraged by the fact that a local pilot was already getting lift there. Arriving quite low, I soon found strong but tight lift and got enough height to head across to the NW shoulder of the big mountain with the railway. I closely watched the smoke direction on the trains to check the airflow. I was now in and out of cloud and decided to wait to see if it would clear. I worked my way round to Clogwyn Station and out to the N. To the NE of Clogwyn Station, while just above base, and about 300 feet above the mountain, I had a massive collapse 75-80%. It came straight out but it really put me off flying in that air towards Crib Goch and I headed back over Clogwyn again. I got low and had again to use the Clogwyn cliffs etc to get back up. This was fun in a spectacular place.

In the meantime cloudbase had lifted enough for me to see the train smoke blowing up the W face of Snowdon, this gave me confidence that it was not in rotor and I circled up until I was 50 feet above the summit station. A last burst of lift took me neatly on my final 360 over the summit, about 50 feet above it. It was black with people who waved and cheered - very satisfying. As I completed the 360 I lost the lift and headed S to get safety height above the ground. I made it over the southern ridge Bwlch Main, but did not have the height or lift to get over the two ridges to the north. I was then committed to flying down Cwm Llan and was worried about rotor. I realised that, being a big mountain, there might well be lee-side thermals but I found no more than zeros over the Watkin Path. As I got low towards the main valley at Hafod y llan the air got rough with three valleys intersecting. The wind direction (though I did not realise it then) was switching between the three directions. I thought I had enough height to land beyond the Glaslyn river, but there were lots of wires and small fields surrounded by trees. I opted for a bigger field because of the gusty wind, and turned back, only to find that the tail wind had got stronger and I had a few anxious moments on the speed bar before I was sure I could clear the river and the high trees next to it. I did have plenty of height left for a good fast landing (to cut through the wind gradient), but was mighty glad to be down in one piece, to eat my sandwiches by a delightful river in the sun, listening to cuckoos calling. Only 10km but a big experience! In retrospect, when I lost the lift I should have headed back West, I could then have done what Rich and others did as the cloud cleared and they could fly to the north of Crib Goch. It was a split-second choice, and I had the problem that I was not familiar with the geography, and I had not liked that big collapse.